Monday, October 29, 2007

Where Are You From?

I recently installed a snazzy device in my sidebar, which tells me the locations of people who drop by at my blog and the pages they read. Then, they plot the visits on a map of the world with a dinky star – thus giving me an idea of the geographical spread of page hits. (Now, I know some of the engineers would be sniggering since there is nothing very technologically advanced about this but I am rather wonderstruck with technology!)

Predictably, India, North Western Europe, the British Isles and the university towns of the USA make up an overwhelming majority of my readership.
But there are a huge number of locations from which only one reader had come – presumably while researching chromosomal disorders or Amitav Ghosh – and hastily retreated.
But their locations are impressively esoteric. A random sample includes:
Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania
Lima, Peru
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Honolulu, Hawaii
Rimouski, Quebec, Canada
Mega, Papua, Indonesia
Daegu, Taegu-Jhikalasi, Korea (South)
Vilnius, Lithuania
Helsinki, Southern Finland
Istanbul, Turkey

Even stranger than these one-off visitors – easily explained by wrong search terms – is the location of multiple visitors.

My most populous readership base in Bombay with 190+ readers till now, followed by Delhi (110+), Calcutta (90+) and Chennai (60+). If I sit down and list the readers, I think I can come up with about 10 people from each city whom I know to be reading this.
What about the rest? Are they all trying to find out about Dharmendra’s acceptance speech at the Filmfare awards?
There are 30+ readers in London – of which I know about 5. 15 in Dubai, of which I think I know 1. There are 10 in Muscat, of which I know 2. And 13 in Singapore, of which I know 1.

Then come the smaller towns all over the place.
Some 13 people from ‘Nokia, Western Finland’ have come here.
15 from Durham and 7 from Charlotte (both in North Carolina), 8 from Salt Lake City (Utah, not Calcutta) and 7 from Lansing (Michigan). Another 15 are from Austin, Texas.
17 from San Jose (California) would probably be Nilendu checking in from behind multiple firewalls.
And these numbers keep on increasing!

In India, there are 16 readers from Krishna district in AP and 7 from Lamba in Rajasthan. Are the distributors from my FMCG days trying to see if I still remember them? Of course I do, Srinivasa Rao-garu!
In fact, right now, somebody from Nagar in Rajasthan is reading the Shilpa Shetty post...

Obviously, so many people from these smaller towns would not be coming due to search engine misdirection. So, am I to believe that they are coming here on purpose?
What is the real reason? Or, is it a sleight of hand performed by my ‘snazzy device’?

If the readers from the aforementioned towns do exist, would they please be kind enough to raise their hand and give attendance? I mean, how the hell did the 7 of you from Erie (Colorado) land up?
Actually, if any of you have come back to this blog, would you identify yourself?

Damn, I so hated to do this in college. And now, I am asking others to record attendance!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Claps & Whistles: Dialogues from the latest Bengali Potboilers

Reading the annual Puja issues of a few Bengali magazines and came across this absolute gem of an article (in Anandalok) on the dialogues from Bengali potboilers (a large number of them starring Mithun), which have become popular in the last couple of years. It seems Mithun is doing to Bengali cinema today what he was doing to Hindi cinema in the mid-90s… adding commercial value with the touch of what is called B-grade masala!

I will not bother with a translation because nobody on earth can replicate the punch of a Mithun Chakraborty uttering… Hence, non-Bongs will have to excuse!

* In the bhog of Ma.

* Shaaper chhobol aar Cheetar khabol, jekhaney porbey arai kg manghso tuley nebey.

* Agnishwar Ray jekhaney paa rakhey, prothomey shey jaigata gorom hoi. Tarpor agun joley. Shesh hoi chhai diye.

* Marbo ekhaney, lash porbey shmoshaney.

* Fatakeshto khobor dekhena, khobor porena, khobor toiri korey. – both from MLA Fatakeshto (which is a Munnabhai look-alike, about a good-hearted goon becoming a MLA).

* Abhimanyu nag, jal-dhora noi. Jaat gokhro. Ek chhobolei chhobi.

* Public-er maar, Keoratala par.

* Nursery-tey shuru, half pantey guru, full pantey maha guru. (To try and give a context, this is from a film called Mahaguru!)

* Na ticket, na passport, shoja oporey.

* Shuru batam diye, interval-ey hospital, climax-ey chulli – Om shanti. (I never realised that a word like batam would find its way in a mainstream film!)

* Tor chhitkini-tey jong dhorey gechhey. Langcha shukiye bnodey hoye gechhey! (I am not sure of the context but is it REALLY about what I think it is?)

Thrilling!

What I found extremely irritating in the article was the supercilious tone of the author, who was trying to predict the downfall of the Bengali film industry due to the audience’s predilection for these ‘down market’ lines (while accepting that the films were huge successes purely on the basis of the dialogues).
Happily, in the same issue, he also did an in-depth profile on Rakhi Sawant complete with details of her implants and ‘glamourous’ photographs. I hope he realized the wonderful irony!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saaransh: The Life and Times of Mahesh Bhatt

It has been such a long time since I did one of those 3000-word jaw-dropping, migraine-inducing compendium posts on Bollywood. So, while watching Hum Hain Raahi Pyaar Ke the other day, I decided to do one on Mahesh Bhatt, best known for having a cynical opinion on life, universe and everything. Might as well because the number of good films he has done is surprisingly low. (For me, good is usually a subset of original.) But even that number might be enough to get him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mahesh Bhatt films have three kinds of characters: (1) Illegitimate children of famous people, (2) People falling in love with psychotic characters and (3) Illegitimate children of famous people falling in love with psychotic characters.

There are some films that don’t have the above characters but they were either rumoured to be ghost-directed or a copy of a Hollywood movie. At the peak of his career, Mahesh Bhatt used to direct anything between three to six films a year so I guess all of the above could well be true! At one point of time, he never made a film without Mushtaq Khan, Avtar Gill and Akash Khurana. At approximately the same point, Pooja Bhatt never made a film without him either! I am certain Pooja Bhatt holds a couple of records like – Most Number of Films Under Daddy’s Directorship and Most Number of Films as Character Named Pooja.

Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain (1974) – I heard some vague rumours that this film was rejected by the Censor Board since it presented a depraved view of life involving a prostitute and two criminals. I have no clue whether this film actually released or what?

Arth (1982) – An art house classic, this was Mahesh Bhatt’s first claim to fame. Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil both turned in terrific performances while Kulbhushan Kharbanda continued to chew while delivering dialogues. From Shakaal to a photographer was a huge comedown but not as much as having to go back to your wife when your girlfriend turns psycho! This is generally hailed as a feminist favourite but I failed to see why. I mean, leaving your spouse because his/her lover is paying for your desserts is hardly a female monopoly. Anyway…

Saaransh (1984) – Mahesh Bhatt selected an unknown actor (in his late 20’s) for the lead role of B V Pradhan, a 65-year old retired headmaster. His production house wanted a bigger star so they forced him to take Sanjeev Kumar. The new actor came to his house and gave him hell, even calling him a cheat! When Bhatt saw the outburst, he realized he had got the man who can give his climax a completely new dimension. So he told his producers to bugger off and took the new actor in. Incidentally, the new actor’s full address was Anupam Kher, c/o Mrs Kaur, Khetwadi, Khar!

Janam (1985) – Illegitimate son of famous director. Makes first film despite severe odds. Father recognizes him at awards night. Yawn. Anupam Kher was the father and Kumar Gaurav the son.

Naam (1986) – This was produced by Kumar Gaurav (or Rajendra Kumar) thought it should have been produced by Sanjay (or Sunil) Dutt. As the misguided youth teetering on the brink of collapse, Sunju did his first role of consequence and became the toast of the industry. The even more famous feature of this film was the NRI anthem – “Watan se chitthi aayi hain” (sung on screen by Pankaj Udhas). Musically, it is one of the worst songs I have ever heard but when cute Sardars cry to a song, its hit status is the surest thing on this side of SRK’s abs!

Kaash (1987) – An interesting take on male chauvinism, this was about a declining Bollywood star (Jackie Shroff) who is averse to his wife working to support him but is even more averse to giving up his bottle and moving his arse a bit! Dimple was very good in the wife’s role and Jackie played the role in the only way he can – like a Teen Batti tapori!

Daddy (1989) – A teenager’s attempt to reform her alcoholic dad was a film made for television. Anupam Kher gave a lovely performance as the alcoholic. This was Pooja Bhatt’s debut film, I think - and she turned up in dad's films at unfailing regularity.

Awaargi (1990) – Govinda. Anil Kapoor. Meenakshi Sheshadri. Don’t even recall which film this was lifted from!

Aashiqui (1990) – Along with QSQT and MPK, this was the final nail of the action films’ coffin! Even hair as bad as Rahul Roy’s and acting talent as non-existent as Anu Agarwal’s could not stop this movie from becoming a runaway hit. T-Series, Nadeem-Shravan and Kumar Sanu tasted stardom for the first time and raked in the moolah! Sanu’s house in Bombay is apparently called Aashiqui! And before you ask, Rahul Roy’s mom was his father’s second wife.

Jurm (1990) – Vinod Khanna plays a cop and Meenakshi Sheshadri his wife. He has to protect Sangeeta Bijlani, who was a witness to the murder of Akash Khurana. The horny cop sleeps with his ward and his wife throws a fit. In between all this, the bad guys zoom in on the elusive ‘saboot’ (which, in typical Hindi fillum style, was hidden in a railway station locker) and you have a extra-marital crime thriller. This movie is primarily known for the song “Jab koi baat bigad jaaye…” – which, as you have rightly guessed, is a lift!

Junoon (1992) – Ever seen Cat People? Apparently, its an English flick about an ichhadhari tiger! I think the scriptwriter of this movie is the only person in India to have seen it. You see, Rahul Roy got bitten by a pregnant tigress whose hubby he killed. This made him turn into a tiger on every full moon night! He had no recollection of his murders and when he woke up every morning in the buff, he wondered why there was blood on his hands and mouth and news about his enemies getting killed.

Sadak (1991) – Okay, if the serious movie buffs promise not to dissolve in laughter, then I will tell you that the plot is loosely based on Taxi Driver! The original had none of the foot-tapping music by Nadeem Shravan. Imagine De Niro singing "Rehne ko ghar nahin / Sone ko bistar nahin" and you’ll realize what you missed! Pooja Bhatt played the golden-hearted virgin prostitute and Sanjay Dutt the Habib-styled, long-haired cabbie. The scene stealer, obviously, was the villain (vamp?) – an eunuch called Maharani, played with great relish by Sadashiv Amrapurkar. (Incidentally, Filmfare inaugurated its Best Villain award this year to honour Maharani.)

Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991) – Oh damn, this is a copy again. This time, Frank Capra got ripped as Aamir Khan did the suave Clark Gable act of It Happened One Night. He and Pooja went from Bombay to Bangalore by road while singing all their songs in Ooty! Tiku Talsania, as Aamir’s manic boss, was hilarious. As were the stories of Aamir’s perfectionism – which were recounted by Pooja Bhatt to anyone who cared to listen. Net result: Aamir never worked with her again.

Saathi (1991) – This was Mohsin Khan’s debut film. Who is Mohsin Khan, did you ask? Mohsin Khan was a Pakistani cricketer, who opened their innings along with Mudassar Nazar. He married Reena Roy and tried his hand at acting. The name suggests a story about friends but nobody knows too much about it anyways.

Saatwan Aasman (1992) – A love story between two terminally ill patients, played by Pooja Bhatt and Vivek Mushran or somebody equally insignificant. Why was it called Saatwan Aasman? Search me!

Tadipaar (1993) – What if Roman Holiday was remade and instead of a reporter, a roadside tapori became the hero? What if the ending was happy? What if the Gregory Peck role was played by Mithun? And the Audrey Hepburn role by Pooja Bhatt? Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh – I died after the last possibility came true!

Gumrah (1993) – Copy of Bangkok Hilton. Dumb belle Sridevi gets conned by her boyfriend (Rahul Roy) into carrying drugs into an Oriental country (I forget, which), which has the death penalty for drug traffickers and Occidental jailers in their prisons. Her hunky boyfriend – Sanjay Dutt – followed her into the foreign country and the prison to get her out. Also, to elongate the storyline, a sentimental dad (needless to say, estranged) in the form of Anupam Kher was injected.

Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993) – Everybody has seen this movie. Everybody has heard the Most Popular Bad Lyrics of the Century – “Bombay se gayee Puna / Pune se gayee Dilli / Dilli se gayee Patna / Phir bhi na mila sajna…” Everybody has also heard that this film was completely ghost-directed by Aamir Khan. It was his home-production anyway!

Sir (1993) – Chhappan Tikli! Long before Nana Patekar polished off 56 goons, Gulshan ‘Get-up’ Grover played a small-pox infected villain, who polished off his enemies on tennis courts. His nemesis was Paresh Rawal, whose daughter was Pooja Bhatt, whose boyfriend was Atul Agnihotri and all of whom were taught the lessons of love by Sir (Naseeruddin Shah)! Joke of the day: What do you call a Jurassic professor? Dino-sir! Thought of the day: Who counted the 56 spots on Gulshan’s face?

Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee (1993) – Yet another rehash of a filmmaker’s affair with a mentally unhinged girl. Rahul Roy and Pooja Bhatt starred in this film – which was made for the inaugural transmission of Zee Cinema or Zee TV. I have never seen a film on television with so many ads… and to think, this was more than a decade back. Just in case people missed the Mahesh Bhatt touch, he flicked the poster design from Basic Instinct!

The Gentleman (1994) – This was the remake of a Telugu hit called ‘Gentleman’. For a very enlightening discourse on the addition of The in the Hindi version, Juhi Chawla’s dance steps and Chiranjeevi’s reactions thereof, please read this.

Naaraaz (1994) – Mithun (in the title role) was the Untouchable friend of upper caste Atul Agnihotri. Their romantic duet (“Tere bin main kuch bhi nahin”) while looking dreamily into each other’s eyes was in the pioneering traditions of Dharam Veer described here.

Milan (1995) – The only film I know in which Akash Khurana (the most sincere looking guy on this planet!) plays a villain, a psychotic one at that. He tries to molest Manisha Koirala when Jackie Shroff is sent to jail. Why? Who the hell cares? BTW, Mahesh Bhatt got a little bored copying plots from films. So, for this completely original storyline, he flicked the ad line from the Mel Gibson starrer Forever Young. “Time waits for no one. True love waits forever.”

Criminal (1995) – Copy of The Fugitive with Nagarjuna essaying the Harrison Ford role. And to beef up the length, a love triangle was inserted with the help of South Indian belle – Ramya Krishnan. Manisha Koirala is the first angle. Some of the scenes were so identical to the original that I have this feeling that they went and shot on the sets of The Fugitive! Had one hit song (composed by the strangely named M M Kreem) – “Tu mil dil khile…

Naajayaz (1995) – Naajayaz means Illegitimate. Oh god – not again! Ajay Devgan played the title role, as a cop who is trying to come to terms with his step-dad (Naseer) ignoring his mother AND carrying on a thriving racket! Juhi Chawla was the comely police inspector in uniforms so tight that criminals would auto-ignite!

Papa Kehte Hain (1996) – Mayuri Kango turns out to be this really irritating babe with a really screechy voice. She goes on a hunt for her father – oh God, again? Yup! And she is helped in her pursuits by Jugal Hansraj, who looks as Masoom as ever. Wonderful songs, though.

Dastak (1996) - Sushmita Sen played the role of an Indian Miss Universe winner - finally, an original story! And she was stalked by a crazed lover and protected by a bodyguard. Oh damn - The Bodyguard! Sushmita was gangly, giggle and could not act to save her life. Sharad Kapoor played the crazed lover and I have not seen anybody flare his nostrils as much as he did in this movie. On the night before the release of the movie, a friend heard a Hindi news channel end its 9 o'clock news with "Yeh thi khabrein aaj tak. Intezar kijiye Dastak..."

Chaahat (1996) – SRK was the Hero. Pooja Bhatt played the Love Interest. Ramya was the Crazed Lover (though she replaced flaring nostrils with heaving bosoms). Naseeruddin Shah played the Crazed Lover’s Doting Brother & Mafia Don. Anupam Kher played the Hero’s Father and featured in the landmark parent-child bonding song – “Daddy cool cool cool / Mera beta fool fool fool…

Tamanna (1997) – An eunuch finds an abandoned girl child and raises her as his own. Paresh Rawal was fantastic in his role as the eunuch but Pooja Bhatt (in the title role) could not match up and the film collapsed in a heap of melodrama.

Duplicate (1998) – One of Yash Johar’s earlier productions (before his son wielded the baton and earned him a gold mine). If you hadn’t guessed already, the film had SRK in a double role (his only?) and excellent music. SRK continued his manic act from where he left it at Anjaam and Darr as he played the growling Mannu Dada with more ham than a sausage factory.

Angaaray (1998) – Akshay Kumar. Nagarjuna. Pooja Bhatt. Who else? Who cares?

Zakhm (1998) – In between the huge numbers of copies, Mahesh Bhatt occasionally came up with a film like this and redeemed himself. The story of a Muslim woman burnt by a Hindu mob in the Bombay riots and her son’s efforts to get treatment for her was poignant at one level and brutal at another. Ajay Devgan excelled in his role as the helpless son. A brilliant twist to the story was the other son – who was a fast rising Hindutva leader and denied his mother was a Muslim. Oh – and the mother was again the second wife of a film director!

Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan (1999) – Saif played a conman impersonating a rich NRI in a ho-hum story, also starring Twinkle Khanna.

Kartoos (1999) – A death row convict is released by the cops on the condition that he will kill a dreaded terrorist. He meets a grossly overweight Manisha Koirala and wants to reform! Blind duffer… and very soon, both the cops and the terrorist are out to kill him. Sanjay Dutt sleepwalked through the film, as did Mahesh Bhatt!

Did somebody count the number of films in which there is (a) Illegitimate children, (b) Psychotic lovers, (c) Pooja Bhatt and (d) All of the above?

No? Damn – there was a question worthy of Bollywood Ka Boss in there!

Apart from the above, Mahesh Bhatt’s filmography includes: Kabzaa (1988), Siyasat (1988), Thikana (1987), Abhimanyu (1980), Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979), Naya Daur (1978), and Vishwasghaat (1977). I have no clue about any of these. Would anyone care to enlighten?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Char Ka Chamatkar

Hey - I have not done a tag for a very long time! So, I will take one from my favourite fat blogger and do this tag. (Just in case you are wondering, Nilendu is my favourite thin blogger.)
I love lists and constantly make them in my mind - 10 places I have to visit, 7 books I have to buy, 5 things I have to teach my son, 11 roles Amitabh should do... this is just an extension of that.

Four Jobs I've Had in my Life
1. Maths Tutor (2-1/2 years) - When I was in college, I had expensive tastes in books and films. To fund that, I ended up teaching maths to little boys and girls on the verge of their Class X Board Exams. For 200 bucks a month, I used to teach them unitary method and quadratic equations - twice a week. I'd say that I did a rather good job of it since none of them flunked.
2. Food Critic (3 months) - For a little bit of money, I did reviews of a few restaurants in and around Delhi. I can't tell the name of the publication for which I did it because I am not supposed to.
3. Engineering Intern (2 months) - There is a general feeling among people (primarily myself) that I am a crappy engineer. That is 100% true but despite that, I did a two-month stint as an intern in a cooling tower company doing tests in a wind tunnel, calculating (I forgot what!) and even writing a computer program. They were impressed enough to offer me a job!
4. Salesman (8 years) - I have sold soap, toilet cleaner, shoe polish, soft drinks, hair oil, edible oil, instant noodles, newspaper, advertising space among other things in 9 different states of the country. In fact, the name of this post is actually the name of a sales promotion scheme I did!

Four TV shows I Love to Watch
1. F.R.I.E.N.D.S - I was a rather late convert to this no-brainer of a choice. When I did, I realised I was almost identical to Chandler - though I wanted to be like Joey when I grew up!
2. No Reservations - Anthony Bourdain is God. Actually, do they really pay him to go to all the exotic places in the world and stuff himself silly? Some people have all the fun, dammit!
3. Mastermind - The ultimate quiz show. No nonsense. No frills. Only the grey cells and a black chair.
Cannot think of any more. I liked most episodes of KBC (the Amitabh seasons) and looking forward to Bollywood Ka Boss.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over Again
1. Sholay
2. Andaz Apna Apna
3. Deewaar
4. Gupi Gayin Bagha Bayin

Four Places I have Lived (in chronological order)
1. Calcutta
2. Jamshedpur
3. Chennai
4. Bangalore

Four Places I have been on a Holiday (in the last 3 years)
1. Nalagarh (Himachal)
2. Surajgarh (Rajasthan)
3. Thalassery (Kerala)
4. Calcutta

Four of my Favourite Dishes
1. Mutton Biriyani - Any one of Shamim's (Delhi) / Shiraz (Calcutta) / Paradise (Hyderabad) would do.
2. Shepherd's Pie
3. Macaroon Tart
4. Luchi - Aloobhaja

Four Websites I Visit Daily
1. rediff.com
2. hindustantimes.com
3. moneycontrol.com
4. blogger.com

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now
1. Venice
2. Kumarokam
3. Diva Restaurant (GK II - Delhi) - Suddenly, the memory of their Antipasti Platter...
4. Maddox Square (Calcutta) - Where else would a Ballygunge boy rather be on Ashtami evening, except the liveliest Pujo location in the world?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Durga Pujo for Dummies

There is a general feeling of envy-tinged awe among non-Bengalis about the spectacle that goes by the name of Durga Pujo. I mean, four days off bang in the middle of October usually coupled with the nearest weekend - how did we manage that? And hey - it is a religious thingamajig so no government worth its red-lighted Ambassador would try to stop a god-fearing Bengali from taking the week off!
The closest an Indian festival comes to such a high level of shutdown is probably the Navratri in the West but even there, the Gujjus pack in a full day's trading at the stock market and tuck away a few millions before making a beeline for the Falguni Pathak show. No taking the day off for religious ceremonies.

So, in an unwanted effort to de-mystify Durga Pujo, here is a simple primer on the festival... in six easy-to-understand commandments.

I: Durga Pujo is everywhere. I mean, EVERYWHERE.
Thanks to our race's geographically divergent successes, probably the only place not to have a Durga Pujo now is Guantanamo Bay.
If there are no Bengalis, there are enough Calcutta-lovers who decide that they simply cannot live without the mayhem of those four days. So, they commission an idol, cook some khichdi and potato mishmash, get a Brahmin to perform the rituals and even hire a Bong Indian Idol finalist to make a DIY Pujo.

II: Durga Pujo is like amoeba. It multiplies within its environment.
In Year 1, there is one Pujo. From Year 2 onwards, the number of Pujos = n where n is an integer (greater than that of the previous year) dependent on the number of original organisers, their wives, their origins (East or West Bengal), their blood pressure levels and a million other variables thereof.
Squabbles arise out of momentous things like the haughty behaviour of the Treasurer's wife, blatant nepotism to give the sit-and-draw prize to the President's nephew while the Secretary's own daughter is the reincarnation of Van Gogh and suspected corruption in awarding the catering contract.
And the law of the land states when in squabble, split.

III: Durga Pujo is an outlet for the latent creativity of the Bongs.
In olden days, creative Bongs used to write novels and make films. After Asian Paints started their Pujo contest, the award for the Best Idol / Pandal was valued slightly higher than an Oscar and slightly lower than a Nobel Prize. Consequently, 95% of Bong creativity got channelised into designing Pujo paraphrenalia. The remaining 5% started getting used for judging the creative output for the aforementioned contest (and their clones).
So, we have Greg Chappell, Hogwarts, WTC Towers Collapse, Capitol Hill, Rashtrapati Bhavan, idols made of ice-cream sticks and pandals made of condoms in a misdirected frenzy of 'creative' chest-thumping!
(I made up the last one.)

IV: Durga Pujo is culture. Or, an interpretation of it.
Again, to reinforce the perception of the Bong monopoly on culture, they show off at every public gathering (and Pujo is the largest one). And the result is that Rabindra Sangeet is generally considered to be a fate worse than death.
Kids barely able to walk are made to perform elaborate dance dramas. 85 year olds are given long soliloquys to recite. The Treasurer's wife gets to sing. And the show stealer turns out to be the Indian Idol wannabe, who gets whistles and claps when she sings Kajra Re! And Bongs talk proudly for the rest of the year about the upliftment in the appreciation of art in this country, brought about by having Udit Narayan sing at the 'cultural night'.

V: Durga Pujo is money, honey!
It is by and large an accepted belief among marketers that about 24% of Bengal's GDP is directly or indirectly influenced by this one week. This is due to 103 million people who are caught on CCTV at the Ekdalia Evergreen Club Pujo, trying to catch a glimpse of Moonmoon Sen (who has come to inaugurate it). Of course, whether these multitudes choose to purchase prepaid plans basis the pictures of Moonmoon Sen's daughter on the entry arch is debatable.
But since the public is grateful that there IS an entry arch and the marketers are grateful that the arch is branded, nobody really cares beyond a point. And till then, you have Hindi newspapers sponsoring the Elocution Contest and all is well with the world!

VI: Durga Pujo is Food (with a capital F).
Bongs lose the use of most of the lobes of their voluminous brains at the sight of any concoction that involves fish, mustard oil and batter. Nothing demonstrates this fact better than the stampeding crowd that assembles in front of the fish fry counter at the pandal while the Goddess and her four children twiddle thumbs.
No kidding - Pujos in C R Park are identified as the 'Karim's Pujo', 'Nathu's Pujo', 'Bijoli Grill Pujo' and so on! Within a couple of weeks of the event ending, the purported innovation in the idol design would become a hazy memory while the delectable Mutton Pasanda Kabab would remain clear & present, thanks to the home delivery menu helpfully distributed at the counter.
Maybe, I should have called this post Durga Pujo for Tummies!

Season's Greetings to all! Burrp!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Joker In The Pack: My Kind of Humour

I have a lot of favourite authors.
Favourite, as in, Deserted Island Books. Which are the 10 Books would you be okay with reading millions of times for the rest of your life?
Tarapada Ray – yet another Bengali author, unknown outside Bengal – would be the third on my list of Deserted Island authors (right after Satyajit Ray and Jeffrey Archer). He passed away recently and Nilendu wrote a very affectionate tribute about him and I thought I should write one too (though, a couple of months late).
His best-known works were his collection of joke books, which he apparently lifted from others. But the fun of a good joke lies in the telling and in that, he added an absolutely new dimension to standard drunkard / husband-wife / lunatic jokes that abound as magazine fillers.
So in my tribute to Tarapada Ray, I compiled my favourite kind of jokes.

Three men were walking down the road…
This is the Mine is Bigger Than Yours (metaphorically speaking) joke.
Three men. One says, “I can make a needle which is thinner than the thinnest human hair.” The second says, “That’s nothing. I can make a hole through the needle.” And third – who has to be an Indian – says, “And I can print MADE IN INDIA on it!”
Now, depending on your nationality and ethnicity, you can change the characters in the play, as long as they conform to the stereotypes and your own guy comes in last with the punch line.
The Gujarati has sharp business sense. The Punjabi is brave. The South Indian is hard working. The Bihari is lazy but witty. And the Bengali is God’s gift to mankind. Sorry for the generalization but that’s how I heard each one of these.
Even internationally, the stereotypes are brilliantly well defined. The Englishman is a gentleman. The Italian is flamboyant. The Scotsman is thrifty. The American is a garrulous millionaire. And the Irish is an idiot.
No wonder, the Irishmen started blowing up bridges and towns. Anybody would. I was quite convinced that the Sikhs started their demand for a separate country when they heard what disgusting jokes their Bengali brethren were concocting!

The husband told the wife…
This is the Battle of the Sexes joke.
The basic premise of this category is that marriage is a misfortune very few of us can avoid and hence, it is better to make fun of it. You know, how we used to mimic the ghastly teachers at school? It’s a lot like that. Since we could not bomb the school, we made fun of them. Husband-wife jokes are exactly like that. (Ummm... not in my case specifically, but generally speaking!)
The jokes try to demonstrate that the boyfriends / husbands are a lazy, flirtatious, remote-hogging, beer-drinking, commitment-phobic bunch while the wives / girlfriends are shopaholics, poor drivers, neurotic about cleanliness and excessively dainty. Also, the husband wants it all the time while the wife has to get in the mood.
My favourite one? Well, a wife did not return home one night so her husband asked where she had been. She mentioned being at a friend’s place. He called up ten of her best friends but none of them said she was there the previous night. Now, the husband did not return home one night the next week and his wife asked him where he had been. He said he was at a friend’s place. So, she called up ten of his best friends and every single one of them confirmed that he had been at their place the night before!

Doctor, doctor…
This is the Bermuda Triangle joke.
There are certain classes of people who make a lot of money out of our ignorance. Doctors lead the pack but mechanics, electricians and plumbers fall in the broad category as well. This category of jokes pokes fun at these people whose talents we cannot have and whose bills we must pay.
The doctor jokes are most common – thanks to the Readers’ Digest column (Laughter – The Best Medicine) which has now lent its name to countless anthologies of doctor jokes brought out by pharmaceutical companies and gifted to doctors (presumably to become reading material for their clinics’ waiting rooms!)
The most common doctor jokes are the ones in which the patient’s purported illness is (1) presented in exaggerated form or (2) misunderstood by the doctor.
Sample 1: “Doctor, my problem is that I keep forgetting. / “Tell me about your problem in detail.” / “What problem?”
Sample 2: “Doctor, my problem is that people keep ignoring me.” / “Next patient.”
Lawyers, of course, are a different breed altogether – as they seem to be the butt of all jokes that look to portray the most despicable of humanity!

Kiddie Favourites
Basically, all Knock-Knock / Good-News-Bad-News jokes come under this head as their chief audience consists of individuals with mental age less than 84 months. The operative word here is ‘mental’ as physical age has nothing to do with the comprehension and enjoyment of humour that typically goes:
- Knock! Knock!
- Who’s there?
- Alex.
- Alex who?
- Alexplain later. Now, open the door!
Acknowledgments.

This brings us to my last category – which is clearly the most misunderstood of all kinds of jokes in the universe.
PJ
PJ or Poor Jokes is what philistines call subtle puns – in one of the most unfair of all nomenclature. A pun – when executed with panache – can reach the highest forms of humour but erudition and intelligence of the listener is critical to the success of the joke. Since the sophistication is out of the grasp of most, they usually screech out "Aaaiii, kya ganda wala mara!" to puns as a kind of defence mechanism.
For example, not too many people can appreciate the tale about the Greek guy going to a tailor with a torn coat. The tailor asked, “Euripedis?” and he replied “Eumenides?”
Or for that matter, few can follow Oscar Wilde (recently voted the most humourous man of Britain - ever) when he said, “Immanuel doesn’t pun. He Kant.”
British tabloids – apparently meant for lowbrow audiences – specialize in fantastic puns. You need to have a perspective of opera as well as cricket when they headlined about Shane Warne – “Ain’t Over Till The Fat Laddie Spins!”
There’s one even better – which talked about the Caledonian team’s victory over the Celtics in the Scottish League – Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtics are Atrocious!
The slight extension of the ‘word pun’ is the ‘phrase pun’ which leads to the paranoid question – “Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard disk?”

I could go on and on trying to prove my point. If not anything, I can tell you ten puns to make you laugh. But what if no pun in ten did?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bollywood Ka Boss

He almost died once. He was almost jailed on corruption charges. His company went bankrupt. His house almost got attached. He has appeared in some of the world's worst commercials. As well as some of the world's worst movies.
SRK's forthcoming film's rights get sold for Rs 74 crores. Aamir Khan gets a Rs 7 crore fee for Mangal Pandey. Hrithik signs a three-film deal for Rs 35 crores.
His fees vary between gratis and a Bentley.

And yet... the title of today's post belongs to him and it will continue to be that way for the next one million years.
Because till then, people will still fantasise on the roles he could have done, they will discover newer nuances of his performances and whenever they see Deewaar on television, those eyes will still raise goose-bumps.

And may he live till then. Happy Birthday.

Finally, Bollywood enters mainstream quizzing with a prime time show, produced by the ever-dependable Siddharth Basu. I, for one, would be very interested in watching a show that talks about Hrithik Roshan's pre-Kaho Na days... and that's just the promo! The actual questions will be much tougher.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Radio Ga Ga

Currently, I am doing my second stint of having to drive more than 45 minutes to get to work (add 50% on the way back)! This means a significant increase in the FM listening time and laughing uncontrollably at the silly (depends on POV) gags. The downside is, of course, listening "Ek hockey doongi rakh ke..." at least twice a day and the "Jannat ko zameen pe utara hain" jingle of Arun Dev Builders. Or is it Purvankara Developers?

The last time I did the long drives was in Bombay, when the staple was the morning show with Jaggu and Taraana.
Jaggu aka Ashish Jagtiani was a free-lancing stockbroker, columnist, RJ and more than a little fat. Taraana (Kapoor) was a television actress, anchor, RJ and more than a little hyper. Together, they carried on a continuous banter about life in Bombay. They hardly ever cracked jokes but were hilariously funny contextually. My entire group of friends was totally hooked on this hip duo and we even repeated their catch phrases at our parties.

Right now, I am listening to Simran and Varun on Delhi's Radio City 91.1 Whatte Fun (yes, that's the full name of the channel). Simran is this hysterical Punjabi woman who talks about friends in Kanneda and makes loud fun of anything that catches her fancy. Initially, I was a little bemused by the infantile humour but now I am completely hooked on. That's the thing about Punjus. Their hysterics grow on you!

Of course, this other radio channel got banned for poking fun at Prashant Tamang's (Indian Idol 3, for the Rip Van Winkles) Gurkha roots. Hilarious - considering the channel aired the joke in Delhi and Darjeeling burned. Which means - did someone record the programme and relay it all the way to North Bengal, thus galvanising the populace there into violent action? Smokin' joblessness, I must say!

This even beats the other group of job-holding jobless people - the guys who phone in to give traffic updates. Every day, every quarter of an hour, a handful of people call up to say things like "Punjabi Bagh se Rohini ki taraf traffic bilkul smooth hain... average speed 40 to 50 kmph"!
Amazing - and they even put one guy on air, who says out the traffic update of some corner of Delhi with a whole lot of importance.
Of course, the funniest part is that they are a few guys who are the regulars. Almost every single day, I hear Sanjay Mittal and K B Ratan reporting to Mirchi and City respectively! I mean, this is hardcore altruism. No hopes of being on air with Simran, no hopes of goodie bag, no hopes of getting your request played even! Yet, the selfless gents keep at it on a daily basis telling Delhiites about traffic snarls.

The great part of the radio experience is the plethora of fillers / jokes that keep coming at you at great speed.
One is the desi rehash of Knock Knock jokes. Check this one...
- Knock! Knock!
- Kaun hain?
- Sharma.
- Sharma kaun?
- Sharmana chhod daal, I love you bol daal!

Babbar Sher is another favourite but I seem to be missing it most of the time due to incessant channel switching.

PS: To end on an unconnected note, I recently watched snatches of a Bengali film called Badnaam on DD Bangla, starring Prosenjit and it had Sunny Deol (!) appearing in a song. He even sang a few lines about the dignity of labour. That's the thing about Bong intellectualism... in any other language, Sunny would have sung about taking a lorry and going from Amritsar to Lahore!

PPS: Also re-listening to a series of five CDs called Immortal R D Burman. In between the songs, there are snatches of conversations by various stars - and they are wonderfully appropriate for the songs that follow.
Gulzar says, "Sangeet ke to sirf saat sur hote hain. Lekin Pancham mein bepanaah sur they, jo humne ek saath jiya hain. Woh sur to beet gaye aur ab ek hi sur bacha hain - chup ka. Yeh sur tabhi beetega jab main beet jaoonga..." And "Beeti na beetai raina" starts off...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Double Albums: See Inlay Card for Details

A very long time ago in Calcutta, a magnificent shop called The HMV Store opened. It was located in the lane right next to the Statesman House and predated the Music Worlds and the Planets M by a good decade and a half. It had rows and rows of alphabetically arranged cassette covers, along with a listening nook (manned by a rather fierce looking gentleman in a dhoti).
Our (his and mine) modus operandi was to enter this air-conditioned haven (armed with pad and pen), hang around till the salespeople got really agitated, copy out the details of all the tapes we wanted, leave, have beef kabab at the shack outside and then go to Melody to purchase whatever we could afford of our wishlist. Melody was populated by ever-smiling salesmen, willing to listen to our arbitrary demands and even amenable to discounts (unlike the pension-eligible, constipated employees of RPG).

During these visits, one of the biggest 'things to do' was to identify the 'combination cassettes'. With less disposable income but probably a greater need for the classics of Hindi film music, HMV had a huge list of cassettes, which carried the soundtrack of two films. These two films usually had a common element (director, producer, actor, composer, all of the above) but sometimes it was nothing but an imagined theme.
And one's life depended on the best value-for-money that can be extracted from choosing the most judicious combo.

My absolute favourite combo was Guide-Jewel Thief.
SD, Navketan, Dev Anand have always given music that is unforgettable, not to mention the films. One of the biggest problems of Dev Anand's recent prolific but execrable output is that people born in the 1980s would never know what brilliant films he worked in.
Anyway, Guide and Jewel Thief had a vast musical range which went from cabaret to classical and back.
My main grouse against this perfect combo was that they dropped one song each from the two soundtracks to fit them into the tape. It was Wahan kaun hain tera and Baithe hain unke pass from the two films respectively. Since I watched both the movies after I bought the tape, I was quite shattered when I found out at this breach of trust by HMV.

My second favourite was Saath Saath-Arth.
Javed Akhtar recently mentioned in an interview that this was the highest selling combination cassette ever in the history of HMV. It is quite easy to see why.
Young romantic melodies written, composed and sung by young romantic souls (of which Jagjit Singh became the biggest star then) have a way of getting into your minds and never leaving. And the fact that both the films were perfect examples of middle-of-the-road cinema and excellent platforms for the music just added to the magic.
Even a perfectly round Raj Kiran could not do anything to spoil the melody and peerless lyrics which went - Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho / Kya gham hain jo chhupa rahe ho...

The third on this list has to be Safar-Anand.
Rajesh Khanna on a death-bed did to the women of the 1970s what SRK in Aviators did to the women of 2000s! He popped it like no other, to the accompaniment of screeching violins and maudlin speeches but you have to admit that nobody carried off a kurta-pajama better than he did (except for probably Amol Palekar in Golmaal).
The best part about this cassette was that since the songs were not enough to fill the tape, they interspersed them with dialogues. Safar was slightly philosophical and opaque on this count but Anand had rockin' stuff. You just have to hear Rajesh Khanna's introduction scene to know what I mean ("Lymphocarcoma of the intestine. Wah - jaise koi Viceroy ka naam ho!"). And then there is Amitabh's tour-de-force at the last scene (which was a unique response to a tragedy - anger).
All in all, this combo (with his lesser number of, but brilliant, songs) was what Anand Sehgal said about life... Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin!

If I liked the second half of this tape as much as the first, then Aandhi-Mausam would have topped this list of combo cassettes.
Aandhi is my favourite Hindi film soundtrack - absolute favourite. (Shaan is second.)
Even at the risk of repeating myself, I just cannot get enough of Gulzar and RD. With this one, they just went on to another plane altogether. Even the title music of Aandhi, recorded with a full-fledged orchestra going crash-bang-boom, had a rather un-subtle mix of the tunes but I even liked that!
Mausam's high point, of course, is Dil dhoondta hain but somehow that tune never grew on me.
All that is compensated by "Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin / Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi toh nahin..." Is there anything else to say?

Apart from these masterpieces, I had quite a few 'flavours of the day' - of which we had to buy Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak-Waqt ki Awaaz due to my sister's insistence that Aamir Khan looked most handsome on this particular cover. My disappointment at not being able to explore better combinations was somewhat alleviated by playing the Waqt Ki Awaaz side of the tape very regularly. In what would be one of his last songs, Kishore Kumar sang "I want to HIT some-buddy / I want to EAT somebody" to Asha's limpid "Mujhe tod do, mujhe mod do / Meri baahon ko tum maror do...".
It was so bad that it was good! For the trivially inclined, the film starred Mithun and Sridevi.

Nowadays, this concept of combo cassette is no longer there. Even films with non-existent music have a single-soundtrack album, with the numbers being made up by music video songs, DJ Aqeel remixes and excerpts from background scores.
In fact, the last combo I bought was Murder-Paap - yet another favourite of mine!
But the sad part is that both these films had just one landmark number each (unlike the roll call of unforgettables in the earlier examples!). The only consolation was that Bheege hnot tere and Mann ki lagan were so placed that if you reversed the tape right after the first one, the second one started almost immediately. I must have worn out the tapes at exactly that spot!
Because one of thrills of listening to songs on the car stereo is that you can hum along with Kabhi mere saath koi raat guzaar / Tujhe subah tak main karoon pyaar... and then you sing loudly along with Woh oh oh, woh oh oh!

Now, I am looking for yet another combo, which I know exists but remains untraceable! If any of you see a tape of Jism-Raaz, do let me know!